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Preparing for Service

“Where do you find meaning in your life and at GPPC?  What crossroads do you face within GPPC and what do you hear God calling you to offer to this community?  How does your view of God’s calling relate to your understanding of God?  What is your hope for the church at this point in our life together? What is something you especially value about or in the PCUSA Book of Order and the PCUSA Book of Confessions?”

These are questions Carla suggested those of us who have been elected to begin service on the GPPC Session be prepared to talk about when we met with the current Session to be examined.  Our examination took place on August 19 and, following direct – but friendly – questioning, the current members of the Session voted to sustain the examination – so we now have been deemed eligible for Session service.  But, it has been the process of preparing for this examination event – and for our ultimate service on the Session – that has been especially rewarding and meaningful for me.

What has this process included and involved?  First, we “elders-elect”- Ayana, Erica, Lisa, Glenna, Ann, Sally and I – met for a couple of evenings last month with Carla and shared a meal.  We talked about our life experiences and got to know each other better.  We talked about our prior church experiences and our respective values.  We explored the various confessions included in the PCUSA Book of Confessions.  We examined various provisions of the PCUSA Book of Order, including the PCUSA governance process and the responsibilities of church officers in the PCUSA.

Also, the weekend before we met with the Session for examination, we journeyed to Richmond Hill on Church Hill for an overnight retreat with Carla.  As several members of our congregation had done last year when Carla was on sabbatical, we enjoyed the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of Richmond Hill, its beautiful gardens and grounds, its simple but meaningful worship services, and the wonderful meals prepared for us by the members of the Richmond Hill residential community.[1]

At Richmond Hill, we continued our exploration of the questions posed to elders-elect at the time of ordination and/or installation.  We considered the purpose, values and goals that we have established for GPPC and how we saw GPPC living into those values and goals – to date and going forward.  We reviewed the duties and responsibilities of ruling elders as they are articulated in the Book of Order.  We talked about the specific roles we might be called upon to play on the assumption of our service as active ruling elders at GPPC.  Those of us who have longer tenure as members of GPPC shared some historical perspective of our church and all shared some of the more meaningful and special events that have occurred during our respective time at GPPC.  We enjoyed each other’s company and, I believe, developed a shared excitement about working together to continue God’s work through those of us at GPPC.

Even amid a few expressions of doubts and anxieties, I have perceived and experienced a true and strong sense of energy and dedication on the part of my co-elders elect.  This, in turn, has translated to a renewal and enhancement of the strong feelings I – and I hope we all – have for GPPC.  I continue to believe that we are blessed to be a part of this particular community of faith and am hopeful that we can and will continue our collective efforts to maintain and expand our presence and influence in and service to our community, neighborhood, city and the world.  Among other things, I am excited and hopeful that the process of developing a strategic plan for GPPC will result in a strengthening of our willingness and ability to live in to our purpose, values and goals.  I also hope this effort will lead to an enhancement of our current financial stability and, indeed, the development of a true “culture of generosity” – that will result in an increased willingness to share our abundant resources with others in greater need.

Finally, I hope that those members of our congregation who may be called upon to serve on the Session or in other capacities in the future happily and enthusiastically will accept the challenges and opportunities that such service offers.  And, I hope that those who do will have the wonderfully positive experiences I have had in preparing for this service.

[1] Richmond Hill is an ecumenical Christian fellowship and intentional residential community who serve as stewards of an urban retreat center within the setting of an historical monastery.  Its mission is to seek God’s healing of Metropolitan Richmond through prayer, hospitality, racial reconciliation and spiritual development. Community worship services are offered each Monday evening at 5:30 P.M. as well as a Taize service on first Mondays at 7:30 P.M.

David Ross has been a member of GPPC since the late 1970s. He resides in the Ginter Park neighborhood and recently retired after serving 35 years as General Counsel (Chief Legal Officer) for Virginia Commonwealth University. His son, Michael, serves in the U.S. Navy and currently is stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, where he and his wife, Elaine, reside. His daughter, Karen, and granddaughter, Cathryn, live in Wilmington, North Carolina. David previously has served on the GPPC Session and currently chairs the GPPC Finance Committee. He also served on a Pastor Nominating Committee (Bob Pierce) and is a member of the GPPC Adult Choir

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